Marsha Houston’s blog – getting Haymitch prepared for the 2012 Petit Prix

I wrote the following in mid-August as Haymitch and I were preparing for his very first trial, a TDAA trial in Gahanna, Ohio.  I’ve been meaning to update my blog for readers, but have been busy training my dogs. <g>

ON AUG. 12, 2012 I wrote:

The next 5 days will be devoted to a couple of advanced agility concepts, weaving and sequencing. And mental preparation …

Weaving —

I began attempting to teach Haymitch the 2×2 weave method. He didn’t get it at first, and didn’t get it at last. Dogs all learn differently, and he appears to be uninterested in offering to engage agility equipment unless I’m moving with him. With me standing still he offers non-equipment behaviors, like sit, down, jumping up, etc.  If I’m moving he offers to engage agility equipment.

I accept the dog I’m with, so I wired up a set of weaves and walked him back and forth a few times.  The wires, for such a little dog, provided no blockage to his efforts to jump over or duck under the wire. I put his leash on and he continued to easily duck under or jump over the wire. Hmmmmm ….

I moved to the 2×2 weaves, set them up in a slightly-akimbo line of 6 with the short TDAA weavepoles so I could get my hands in there easily, and began just luring him back and forth through the poles. I gradually allowed for a more independent performance. I gradually straightened the line of poles. Haymitch performed about 30 repetitions before he started to lose appetite.

By the 20th repetition he was starting to get the idea of what was required to earn the treat. I’ll repeat this training every day this week. When he starts actually weaving independently, I’ll open the weaves up again to build some speed and encourage that independence.

Sept.20, 2012, update … Haymitch is entering 6 weaves correctly about 90% of the time. I’m adding tougher entries and sending him to the weaves over a jump. He’s staying in the sets of 6 poles consistently. NEXT:  Adding weaves in flow, at speed, and increase to 10 poles.

Sequencing

Bud set the building for his private lesson with Pearl and her Tervuren (from Cincinnati). It was easy to come up with some sequences for Haymitch.

At first I did a number of straight runs over agility equipment. I lengthened those runs from 3 obstacles to 5-or-6 obstacles.

Next I put some “handler focus” bits in the middle of a straight line, asking Haymitch to pull off the obstacle in front of him to attend my lead. He missed cues the first couple of times, but quickly drew into the line I demonstrated.

As with agility obstacles, Haymitch showed he is fearless and intuitive. He goes into obstacle focus when my arm is outstretched, and comes into handler focus when my arm is dropped or I have my hand in “luring” shape.

Sept.20, 2012, update … Haymitch does nice sequencing with no distractions. At his first trial he wanted to visit the judge but always allowed me to call him back, and never ceased to work for me. NEXT: Adding longer sequences, putting 12 weaves in flow, asking him to do some distance work. New exercises will include the exploding pinwheel and “go on!.”

Mental preparation —

I just can’t be more impressed with this little guy’s natural ability. We adopted Haymitch about 2 months ago and didn’t really start serious agility training until late July.

I keep waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak, and for Haymitch to fail to respond to training or handling but it hasn’t happened yet.

Sept.20, 2012, update … I feel confident in Haymitch and my ability to form a team over the next few weeks (and years). He’s a willing worker and responds perfectly to the intuitive training we specialize in. NEXT: Work a little each day with Haymitch on sequencing, and a little with Hazard on speed and enthusiasm.

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